Introduction and Aims: The aim of this study is to assess whether the delayed peak in the age-drug use prevalence curve among college students compared with non-college students observed in studies in the USA would be replicated in the UK.
Design and Methods: The analysis was based on data collected as part of the Crime Survey for England and Wales 2010-2011, a national general household survey of young people and adults. A random sample of approximately 26 000 respondents was asked questions covering use of 19 drugs.
Results: The study provides evidence of a delayed age-drug use peak among students compared with non-students of similar age. During the period of age 20-22, drug use prevalence among students was similar to, or higher than, that of non-students. The relationship of student status and elevated drug use only occurred during the narrow age range associated with emerging adulthood (ages 20-22). University attendance before or after this period was not associated with higher prevalence rates among students compared with non-students.
Discussion and Conclusion: Explanations of the age-drug use peak among students would need to take into account that university attendance alone might not result in higher drug use prevalence rates. This would mean that explanations that focus on the interaction between university life and emerging adulthood might provide the most promising lines of enquiry.